Protestant Ignorance of Catholic Faith


#1

I apologize for what has turned into a long ramble but I wanted to get some things off my chest. I see many statements made that Protestants say things about the Catholic Church without knowing what they are talking about. I have no doubt in large part that it is true. While some prominent Protestants make outrageous statements about what Catholics do or believe, I feel that much of the problem comes from Catholics who don’t know their own Church’s teachings.
I can only talk about my own experience but I am wondering if anyone else has found the same.
I am in my mid-50’s and attend the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Until recently I knew virtually nothing about the Catholic Church. What I did know was from what I had been told by Catholics. Not once have I heard anything negative about Catholics from the ministers of any of the churches I have attended as I lived in various parts of the country.
What was I told from Catholics? Well it started out when my neighbourhood friends and I started school. This was in pre-Vatican II days. Some of us went to public school and some to a Catholic school. The teachers at this Catholic school were all nuns which I gather is not the case now. What sticks out in my mind the most is that my friends told us that they were not allowed to play with us because we were Protestants. I remember going to one Mass as a child, I believe it was at a wedding and not understanding a word of what was said since it was in Latin. Over the years I heard conflicting things from Catholic friends with respect to Purgatory, Mary, confession and other things that turn out not to be true. Another thing that sticks out in my memory was a conversation I had in University with a Jewish and Catholic friend. The Jewish friend asked what religion I was, meaning what denomination. I said the religion is Christian and denominations don’t matter. My Catholic friend whole heartedly agreed.
All in all I didn’t know much about Catholicism. Most of what I did know was wrong but I didn’t give much thought to Catholicism in general.
Then I married a Catholic. I wanted to find out as much as I could about her Church so I could understand and respect her beliefs Being the computer age that it is, I naturally started on the internet. That was the first time in my life I encountered anti-Catholicism and anti-Protestantism, apart from the early school instance. I read both Catholic and Protestant apologetics, I I looked into the Catechism of the Church, enyclicals, church fathers and many other things. I thought I was ready to talk to my wife. Was I mistaken.
My wife was a cradle Catholic. She attended Catholic schools, was an altar server, a counsellor at a Catholic summer camp and even studied a while to be a nun. But I was totally shocked about how little she knew about the Catholic Church.
She told me that the doctrine with respect to Purgatory had been done away with in the 1990’s, that the Immaculate Conception was the virgin birth of Jesus, that Catholics and Lutherans believed the same things, that the priests used Bibles with more books than the laity had and she had no real idea about the Real Presence or the sacrificial nature of the Mass… When I tried to tell her otherwise, she practically snapped my head off saying she was Catholic and what could I know.
It turned out though that she was completely disillusioned with the Church and had not been practicing for a number of years and had virtually given up her faith. Her parents were actually quite happy to see her start attending my Church as they felt she was better in a Protestant Church than without faith and not attending church at all. It was her idea though, I did not push her. She also started to read the Bible for the first time, having previously not read much other than the book of Revelation.
This has been a long ramble I guess but I finally will come to the point I guess. If I had relied on her for my knowledge of Catholicism I would have had a totally false understanding of the Church. If I had not been doing research on my own, I would have accepted what she told me because she was the Catholic. If Catholics don’t want Protestants or others distorting their views, they have to make a better effort to educate their own. A Protestant cannot really be blamed for a distorted view if that is what he has been told by Catholic friends. Some people on this board say if we have questions about Catholicism but that won’t help if when we do ask, the Catholic doesn’t know their own religion.


#2

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